State of Utah, gay leaders, want marriage equality challenge before SCOTUS

marriageequality700
July 10, 2014

By Ryan Gierach, West Hollywood, California

How often do the Utah Attorney General’s Office and the nation’s major LGBT Legal organizations march in lock step?

Yes, that’s what we came up with – never – until now.

George Takei and his husband after obtaining their marriage license at the West Hollywood opening of  "the Summer of Love" set off by the Prop 8 decision.

George Takei and his husband Brad Altman after obtaining their marriage license at the West Hollywood opening of “the Summer of Love” set off by the Prop 8 decision.

On Wednesday Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes announced a decision to ask the Supreme Court to weigh in on a challenge to his state’s discriminatory marriage laws.

The move has the potential of making Kitchen v. Herbert the case that decides the future of same-sex marriage national, and the LGBT leadership couldn’t be happier.

Atty. Gen. Reyes, an appointee of Republican Gov. Gary Herbert (the named defendant in the case), decided to skip what is called “en banc review” by the 10th Circuit.

En banc review would have all the Circuit Judges hear the case, not just the panel of three that overturned the state constitutional amendment defining marriage as only between one man and one woman.

In the wake of a succession of 17 court victories since last year’s Prop 8 and DOMA decisions, all striking down as unconstitutional laws the fail to include equal status to homosexual marriages, LGBT advocates have been eager to get a case in front of the Supreme Court by next term, saying that five justices can be counted upon, and a sixth might join in, to make marriage equality a nationwide reality within the next year.

The Supreme Court has choices – they could choose not to take this case, they could hold off and bundle it together with other challenges that are working their way through the appeals process, or dismiss it out of hand to let it stand.

Marriage Equality advocates don’t even want to wait until next spring, having sampled the sweet taste of victory based in solid judicial reasoning – that withholding marriage from a group for no reason other than animus is unconstitutional.

“Every day of delay is a day of hardship,” Evan Wolfson said. “The Supreme Court should take this case and swiftly move to end marriage discrimination across the country.”

Tori and Kate Kuykendall, with their daughter, Zadia, tying the knot in West Hollywood during the first opening of Marriage Equality in 2008.

Tori and Kate Kuykendall, with their daughter, Zadia, tying the knot in West Hollywood during the first opening of Marriage Equality in 2008.

Atty. Gen. Reyes spokesperson Missy Larsen said Wednesday that the decision was driven by a desire “to obtain clarity and resolution from the highest court.”

She said the office will file a petition for writ of certiorari in the coming weeks, but “Utah’s Constitutional Amendment 3 is presumed to be constitutional unless the highest court deems otherwise.”

The National Center for Lesbian Rights, which helped bring the case, applauded the move.

“We want this case to move forward to a final resolution as quickly as possible,” NCLR legal director Shannon Minter told Talking Point Memo.

“Every day, loving and committed same-sex couples and their families in Utah are being harmed by the continued enforcement of measures that deny them equal dignity, security and protection—even though both the federal district court and the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals have held they violate fundamental constitutional guarantees.”

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